I was eleven years old when I experienced an epiphany that changed my life. It was then that I fell in love with parrots, but my epiphany was the realization that companion parrots were, for the most part, treated poorly and misunderstood.
After witnessing a group of employees' blatant disregard for an ailing budgerigar (aka parakeet) in a pet store, and then finding out that the suffering little budgie died shortly thereafter and was tossed into the alley garbage can, I vowed to make a difference for captive birds.
Upon entering adulthood, the harsh reality of the parrot pet trade was far more ominous than I had ever imagined. I no longer just educated people about properly caring for their companion birds. I learned as much as I could about parrots and I started telling the bigger story.
Many well-intentioned, caring people innocently venture into parrot guardianship not realizing the significance of their decision. The wild traits of parrots such as biting, chewing, screaming, and the mess they make, often cause havoc in households. Even if parrots are domestic bred and handfed, they are essentially "wild". Parrots require a tremendous amount of work and time, as well as patience and financial expense. These are some of the reasons parrots are abused, neglected, and surrendered, leaving them homeless and emotionally and physically scarred. According to avian rescue groups across the nation, it is estimated that the average parrot is traded, bought, and sold at least five times before dying prematurely from malnutrition, injuries, and neglect. Every year zoos across the nation receive hundreds of calls from desperate parrot caregivers who want to surrender their companion parrots when the "honeymoon" is over. Most zoos must decline the offers. They are parrot-filled to capacity. Upcoming Workshop: UNteaching Parrot Aggression
Choose from two class sessions:
Saturday, October 20 & 27, 4 – 6 p.m.
Saturday, January 19 & 26, 4 – 6 p.m.
Instructor: Linda Fischer
Learn techniques to UNdo aggressive behavior in parrots and tips to enrich the human avian bond. We’ll take an in-depth look at the parrot’s mind and common mistakes that inadvertently result in aggressive behavior. You’ll also learn how to spot hormonal aggression and what to do when it occurs. Plus, get positive reinforcement techniques that you can use to enrich your parrot’s life. This class is a must for all parrot caregivers! Register online.
Surrendering and re-homing decisions can create an array of feelings, from guilt to relief, to regret to anxiety. Other parrot guardians may decide to endure the turmoil and stick-it-out, in spite of a strained relationship with their parrot.
Parrots are probably the most complex and misunderstood of all species that we keep as pets, yet they are the third most popular pet in America. The little budgie is included in the companion parrot saga. In fact, the highly intelligent budgie is likely the most discarded, carrying the highest mortality and abuse rate of all companion birds.
I believe many parrot behavior problems can be avoided and fewer parrots surrendered if parrot caregivers were to seek professional advice from professional, accredited parrot behaviorists. Susan Friedman, PhD, professor and animal behaviorist says, "In recent years, as the teaching technology of applied behavior analysis has become more widely known and practiced, the quality of life for captive parrots has improved by leaps and bounds."
Understanding your parrot's natural instincts, his or her body language and your own, are just a few of the steps you can take to potentially and dramatically improve the human/parrot bond, no matter how small or big your parrot is. In time, with patience and qualified direction, love can blossom again.
If you're interested in becoming a parrot guardian, please adopt from your local shelter or avian rescue group. Avian rescue groups are overwhelmed with surrendered parrots who need quality homes. Adoptions save lives! And please don't overlook the budgie. Most people are unaware that the budgie is rated the third most intelligent of the Psittacine species. Inside those tiny bodies are amazing little Einsteins! You can learn more about parrot behavior and enrichment teaching by enrolling in the MHS parrot behavior workshops.
Linda Fisher is an animal behaviorist, specializing in parrot behavior based on the principles of applied behavior analysis and state of the art teaching and learning techniques. Linda provides workshops and classes at the Marin Humane Society.